"Medical tourism" on the rise as Americans shop for surgery
It is a sign of the times - Americans shopping for surgery in what is now referred to as "medical tourism."
One 22-year-old Monticello native is doing just that. Priced out of the American market for weight loss surgery, Amanda Martincich is now looking outside of America and to fellow Hoosiers for help.
"As you can see, I have always been kind of heavy," Martincich said as she looks through pictures from her childhood.
She feels as though she is fighting a losing battle. Weight loss programs are not working. Family insurance, since her stepfather is self-insured, does not cover gastric bypass surgery, so she made a decision.
"In the U.S., it costs $25,000-40,000. So if insurance doesn't cover it, it's too much to come up with," she said, sitting in her parents Indianapolis home.
So she started shopping for surgery online. That led her to a company called Medko, which matched her up with surgery program in Chile.
"I am willing to try anything unless something stands out that says that is not safe or not legit," she added.
Medkohealth is a program designed to match people with less expensive surgical options elsewhere in the world. Frustration has led her to this point.
"People are like, 'Get a job, save money.' People won't hire people who are overweight," Amanda admitted.
So, living in America, she is looking to South America for help.
"If this country was so great, then me being able to find insurance would not be so difficult," she said.
Amanda wants to get a degree in criminal justice, but first things first. That means setting up a website to help raise the money she needs.
"46 people have viewed it, but only one has donated," she noted as she looked at her fundraising website.
To her, the situation she finds herself in is criminal, but it is what it is.
"I'm going to go with medical tourism. I don't have any choice. I will just have to come up with the money," she noted.
Amanda had hoped to leave for surgery this week, but obviously, funding is still a big problem. She has two options, one in Mexico and the other in Chile, which is where the company Medko is based. She says the surgery that would cost her up to $40,000 here in America will cost up to $13,000 in this program. She believes she will be able to use her primary care physician here in Indianapolis for follow up following the surgery.
If you decide to shop around - whether its inside the country or outside - medical experts recommend you first "check with your insurer." Don't make a big bill even larger by shopping for care outside your health insurer's network.
Also, press for details. Make sure you have the full picture of potential bills you may face from the surgeon, anesthesiologist and the surgery center.
Finally, think hard about quality. Don't weigh just price. Consider the surgeon's experience or the hospital's infection and re-admission rate.